Next year, Blizzard Entertainment will terminate one of its most controversial services, Diablo 3's gold and real-money auction houses. The auction house let players safely and easily buy and sell in-game items, but Blizzard believes the feature "ultimately undermines Diablo's core game play: kill monsters to get cool loot."
Blizzard co-founder and president Mike Morhaime said the decision to end Diablo 3's auction house came about as result of a number of factors.
"It was a very complex feature that required a lot of planning, a lot of resources, but ultimately I don't think it helped the game," Morhaime told Polygon in an interview at BlizzCon. "I think our players recognized that. We were really looking to see what would happen with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, because they don't have an auction house. The response to the console versions was extremely positive, and most people cited the lack of an auction house."
Morhaime, who used the real-money auction house himself to buy better loot, said Diablo 3's upcoming expansion, Reaper of Souls, was a motivator in shutting the service down.
"We saw the expansion as an opportunity to make some changes," he said. "We all sat down, we talked a lot with the developers, especially the game director Josh Mosquiera, and just tried to look at 'If we could do anything we wanted, what is the right thing to do for the game?'
"We all agreed that the game would be better without the auction houses."
Morhaime said Blizzard considered keeping the gold auction house, but ending the real-money auction house, but "I think that, between the two, the gold auction house probably had more impact on the game than the real-money auction house."
While ending the auction house will also mean less revenue coming in from Diablo 3, Morhaime said shutting it down will pay off in the end.
"It hurt the longterm engagement in the game, and will in the long run hurt the life of the game," he said. By cutting it, "more people will show up and we'll be rewarded financially."
Morhaime also addressed another difficult development decision at the company, the reboot of its long-in-development, next-generation MMO, Titan.
"I think we've been pretty transparent about the thought process there," he said. "We did an evaluation of our technology, the platform that we were building for the game. We realized it wasn't going to do what we needed it to do without some significant changes. We just used that as an opportunity to take a step back, look at the game and ask hard questions: 'If we were going to start something new, what would we make? Would we make this? Make something different?'"
In August, Morhaime said Blizzard was "in the process of selecting a new direction for the project," which he said was "unlikely to be a subscription-based MMORPG."
"There's a lot [we can salvage]," he told Polygon. "There's a lot. But it's too early to talk about specifics, so we're still doing a reboot and changing a bunch of things.
"The team is very energized and we're very excited about the direction they're going."